Ordinary Classes, Extraordinary Chances For Success

By Jasmine Baten and Ariel Levchenko

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It’s the CHS motto—maintain academic rigor at all costs.

At CHS, a well-rounded schedule usually means that one should take as many intensive honors and AP classes as possible, preferably with lots of calculus and difficult science thrown in.

This results in many regular, supposedly easy classes being left in the dust, whether it’s because they have been deemed indicators of slacking and underachieving or because they just don’t sound as impressive with that “Regular” prefix.

Regular classes like Global Issues, Law, Personal Finance, Philosophy and Comparative Religion are consigned to the bin, when they really shouldn’t be.

Yes, AP Chemistry, Molecular Genetics, Multivariable Calculus, AP World and AP Biology are all admirable classes to take; they lead to highly intelligent people, scientific progress and the betterment of the future. But there’s more to life than numbers, names, dates and molecules.

Take Global Issues, a class that informs its students of current worldwide events. It raises awareness in a practical and realistic way that no other honors or AP History class has ever been able to, forcing students to be aware of the harsh truths surrounding the conflicts and suffering that students only hear about on the six-o’clock news.

However, the class is only offered at the regular level, as the curriculum constantly changes with the world’s situation. This means that students on the “Honors/AP Track” tend not to take the course, which is problematic and confusing, given that those “high-achieving” students are frequently reminded that they will be working to provide answers to the world’s issues, yet seem to be mostly unaware of what those conflicts are.

The fact that there’s a group of CHS students that is set on taking high-level courses in all subjects, whether or not they are truly interested in the material, is nothing new. However, the problem arises when students equate rigor with practicality and usefulness.

Another example: Philosophy.

Some might ask, “What’s the good in philosophy? It’s all old dead guys and has no impact on everyday life.” Well, how about the fact that almost every discovery of note in every discipline was made by men and women who understood philosophy and how the physical world and the world of thought intersect?

Besides that, philosophy has always held a special, revered place in education that it’s losing now. Philosophy fills the gap that no other discipline can fill. AP Biology, Multivariable Calculus, AP Physics—all can teach a student what to think—they put concrete thoughts, theorems and facts in the existing framework of a child’s mind.

However, Philosophy shapes the structure of the mind; it doesn’t teach what to think but rather how to think. It teaches deduction, logical reasoning, argumentative rhetoric, critical thinking—skills that are not only applicable to every facet of life, but also help one advance the human condition.

Or how about Law? How many students actually know what their rights are? What students can and can’t do or what the police can and can’t do to them? The society of today has a police force that tends toward actions that are questionable at times, so it might be a good idea to know how to defend oneself to some degree when put in a legal situation.

What about Comparative Religion, a class so underappreciated that it isn’t even being offered this year. Looking at world history and modern times, a huge portion of conflict around the world is caused by religious and cultural clashes. To understand a conflict, one must understand its roots. Consider the Middle East — it would be absolute, utter folly to try to approach the situation there without examining its religious background, especially considering that it doesn’t seem to be getting any better and Generation Y will probably still be dealing with it in the decades to come.

These classes and more are worth taking. They aren’t a waste of time, they’re necessary aspects of a well-rounded individual and a functioning member of society. For the welfare of individual humans and the human race, students need to expand their scope beyond the arbitrary letters in front of a course selection, because 20 years from now nobody is going to care about how many AP classes you took in high school, but the knowledge and ways of thinking will stay with you your entire life.